Cortical Microstructural Alterations in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer's Disease Dementia

Vogt NM, Hunt JF, Adluru N, Dean DC, Johnson SC, Asthana S, Yu JJ, Alexander AL, Bendlin BB.

Cereb Cortex. 2019 Dec 13. pii: bhz286. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhz286. [Epub ahead of print]


In Alzheimer's disease (AD), neurodegenerative processes are ongoing for years prior to the time that cortical atrophy can be reliably detected using conventional neuroimaging techniques. Recent advances in diffusion-weighted imaging have provided new techniques to study neural microstructure, which may provide additional information regarding neurodegeneration. In this study, we used neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (NODDI), a multi-compartment diffusion model, in order to investigate cortical microstructure along the clinical continuum of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and AD dementia. Using gray matter-based spatial statistics (GBSS), we demonstrated that neurite density index (NDI) was significantly lower throughout temporal and parietal cortical regions in MCI, while both NDI and orientation dispersion index (ODI) were lower throughout parietal, temporal, and frontal regions in AD dementia. In follow-up ROI analyses comparing microstructure and cortical thickness (derived from T1-weighted MRI) within the same brain regions, differences in NODDI metrics remained, even after controlling for cortical thickness. Moreover, for participants with MCI, gray matter NDI-but not cortical thickness-was lower in temporal, parietal, and posterior cingulate regions. Taken together, our results highlight the utility of NODDI metrics in detecting cortical microstructural degeneration that occurs prior to measurable macrostructural changes and overt clinical dementia.

Contributing Lab Members